Women on Bikes Series: Steph Hageman

I live in Ossian where I own my own salon. I split my work week between doing hair in Ossian and being in Decorah at Day Spring Spa as a part-time massage therapist. I really enjoy variety of all kinds in life. I may be one of those people who gets bored easily with too much of the same thing.  I enjoy many outdoor activities including biking of course, hiking, skiing which I'm also new at, kyaking, horseback riding, dancing, and laughing.  I love to travel. I enjoy reading, learning new things, trying new things/food etc. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I've been riding a bike since I can remember. I don't know what age I was; somewhere around the time most kids learn to ride. I grew up with endless sidewalks around me, and I can remember making numerous laps up and down the sidewalk daily. It was how I got to school in the nice weather months, softball practice, and any other social event around town.

I would sometimes ride my bike out to my friend's and cousin's house about 5-6 miles outside of Ossian when nobody was available to take me before having a driver’s license. It was transportation and fun! 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
As I've gotten older getting exercise has been a big factor in motivating me to get on a bike.  Aside from just getting exercise, I really want to have fun while I'm at it because I've found it's a lot easier to go out and do something you enjoy and it has a much different feel while you're doing it. It's too easy to stay indoors more than I'd like to, so I've really tried to embrace as many outdoor activities as possible. Mountain biking is totally different from other outdoor activities because it requires more skill, courage, and being present on my part which is really cool. Mountain biking requires more of me all around.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I felt like a badass! I remember a friends' boyfriend taking us out on some trails up around Palisades in 2006 after I bought my first Trek mountain bike. It felt like, “OMG I can't believe I'm riding my bike in here!” and “Holy crap this is a steep hill, but he's taking us here and I'm going to follow, I guess.” Pure FUN!  The trails we were on weren’t super technical because I don't recall ever getting off my bike. I loved the view from being inside the trees, it's always better than from a road!

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
The first time out it was just a matter of trusting the people I was with because they knew I was inexperienced.  I think I was having so much fun that it helped cancel out a few of those voices in your head telling you that you could fly over your handlebars at any moment and land in a wood pile.

What do you currently do to help yourself out when you feel nervous?
If I'm on a trail that I've been on a few times and I find myself feeling nervous or unsure about my skills that day, I first start by mentally reassuring myself that I have done this before and managed just fine. I'm capable of it again. I'll even go as far as telling myself it's easy.  I will pretty much lie to myself until it goes awry; if my anxiety wins I get off my bike to take some slow deep breaths to get rid of as much of that physical unsteadiness that I can.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what do you like about them? If no, do you plan to try them out in the future? If not-why do you like flats? 
I have never tried clipless. I'm not opposed to trying them in the future, but they aren't high on my list because I hear a lot of people hurt themselves with them. I realize it's a matter of practice, but for me I feel there are so many other skills I want to learn before I add them to the mix. Flats are familiar to me, which equals feeling safer. Once I get feeling more solid I will totally give them a shot.

Have you had any moments where you really felt frustrated or uncertain of yourself? How did you overcome the mental/emotional bump?
Too many to count! Accepting that my physical condition and skills aren't what I want them to be leads to regular frustration on the trail. Sometimes I set out on a trail that I think will be a fun challenge and I end up doing a partial endo, falling into my bike on the way down. It will result in a “holy crap” moment or sometimes I'll chuckle a bit if everything feels okay.  I will laugh about how ridiculous it may have looked IF someone saw me. The Mental/emotional bumps get tricky because once I get stuck in a story about how lousy of a rider I am, it's hard to get off that train. I don't have any magical answers for that, but I try to always give myself credit for getting out and riding and remind myself that first and foremost I am doing it for the FUN

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I struggled with and still feel challenged by tight corners on a downhill as well as finding effective ways to climb.  One day when I was really frustrated with my ability to keep my bike on the trail on a steep downhill set of corners. I came home and got on YouTube and watched a bunch of videos to help me see what I was doing wrong and to help me visualize what I could do differently the next time out. It helped, but putting on more miles is what I think is going to be the biggest help. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Well, like I mentioned earlier, handling corners gracefully on a downhill has been a challenge for me. Along with that, the usual shifting when you’re new to mountain biking can be tricky. I think that gets a lot better after you've ridden the trails awhile. Big logs intimidate me, the smaller ones not so much. Endurance when climbing is hands down the one that causes me the most internal drama. It's something that could easily be improved upon if I put in more time on the trails.  How do I not let that drag me down? Ummm, I'm not always successful with it, but when the ride is over it's a lot easier to forget about. It’s far more intense when I'm peddling as hard as I can to get up a hill and I'm just not going to make it. After the ride, I just feel good for going.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The freedom, fresh air, challenge, and fun- all rolled into one. It's lead to places and people that I wouldn't have gotten to otherwise. It takes me places I can't go in my car. It's been a great tool for getting exercise too.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I traded in my 2006 Trek 4500  this summer for a Trek Stache 8.  It's a men's bike and it's was the best fit for me.  I like how light weight it is and how responsive it is.  It's the first bike I test rode at the shop and nothing else felt as good to me out on the trail.  It was meant to be.  That's my only bike because I really don't do paved riding enough to own anything else yet.  I stick to the dirt when the trails allow.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
There's so many I'd love to acquire, but for now it's really some great shorts with padding, and shoes without a lot of grip on the bottoms since I use flat peddles. I also appreciate gloves when mountain biking because of how close you get to trees.

With what you have currently experienced with mountain biking, why should other women give it a go? 
Because it's FUN! That's always been enough of a reason for me. It's a great workout and it makes me feel like a kid... a kid with no rules!

What has helped you, overall, with your confidence with biking off-road?
I think doing it on somewhat of a regular basis with people I trust; who know what kind of a rider I am and why I'm out there. It's great to ride with people that are better riders than me because it pushes me more than riding alone would.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Getting hurt. I remember talking with a family member who is in the health profession over the summer about me doing more mountain biking and she had this scared look on her face the whole time because she said she'd seen so many people with injuries from biking. I guess it's stories...other people's stories and our own stories about what will happen when we try something where we could potentially hurt ourselves.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think when you talk about something it naturally sparks interest in people. They can hear in your voice how much you love and enjoy something. I think there are many out there who would be willing to try if they had someone to show them the trails and a few basic starting skills. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The sheer fun I have when I'm out riding and the sense of accomplishment when I can see little bits of improvement with my riding. The simple fact that I can ride means there are a lot more women who too can ride if they decided that they wanted to.

Tell us a random fact about yourself
Sometimes I feel I was born into the wrong generation because I seem to lack the techy skills that so many my age have picked up very naturally.